DARK AS A DUNGEON

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
DARK AS A DUNGEON
“Dark As A Dungeon” is a song written by singer-songwriter Merle Travis. It is a lament
about the danger and drudgery of being a coal miner in an Appalachian shaft mine. It has
become a rallying song among miners seeking improved working conditions.
The song achieved much of its fame when it was performed by Johnny Cash in his
Folsom Prison concert (At Folsom Prison). During this live performance, one of the
prisoners in the background was cutting up, and Cash started to chuckle. He gently
admonished the man, “No laughing during the song, please!” The man yelled something
about “Hell!” and Cash answered, “I know, ‘hell’!” When he finished the song, Cash made
a comment that was largely repeated, somewhat out of context, by Joaquin Phoenix in the
2005 film Walk the Line”: “I just wanted to tell you that this show is being recorded for
an album released on Columbia Records, and you can’t say “hell” or “shit” or anything
like that.”
Come and listen, young fellers, so young and so fine
And seek not your fortune in the dark dreary mines
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul
‘Til the stream of your blood runs as black as the coal
Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew
Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines
There’s many a man who I’ve known in my day
Who lived just to labor his whole life away
Like a fiend with his dope or a drunkard his wine
A man will have lust for the lure of the mines
Well I hope when I’m gone and the ages shall roll
My body will blacken and turn into coal
Then I’ll look from the door of my heavenly home
And pity the miner that’s digging my bone